Generation Z



Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. Joel 1:3

 We started with the Generation X – those born before 1980.  Then the millennials who encompass Generation Y (born after 1980) and Generation iY (born after 1990).  Now, we have Generation Z who were born after 1995. They are sometimes called Post-Millennials.

Within a short time, they will be one of the largest segments of our population. In the U.S., they will be 33% of the total population by 2020.  That’s just three years from now.  As such, they deserve some study because they will become the largest demographic group, and early studies show that Gen Z differs from the millennials in several ways.

The differences are useful for seeing the trends on how one should adapt to them. We are already seeing adaptations by various institutions to the millennials, which, in my view, is unprecedented. I’ve noted several of them in prior posts, but among them is that businesses are adopting new rules, including abandoning the traditional annual review in favor of real-time feedback on performance.

Other changes include studies being done by various professional sports – Major League Baseball is toying with the idea of shortening the game to keep millennials interested. This year, they are experimenting with games that go beyond the normal 9 innings by putting a player on second base, or even reducing the number of innings from 9 to 7.

Even Nascar is changing its car races to make them shorter to attract a younger crowd. Most Nascar tracks have had to downsize their stands so that they don’t appear to be so empty. They are also adding music festivals, foam parties (whatever those are) and go-karts to attract a younger audience.

Professional basketball is doing something similar.  They are looking at how to shorten the end of the game which gets lengthened by time outs and fouls by the team that is behind.  This draws out the length of the game and loses the attention of the millennials. Even in the arts – traditional orchestras are looking at ways of communicating with millennials to attract them into their audience.

As the researchers note, this generation was born after 9-11 where terrorism is part of the landscape and a down economy in the US has had its effects. One might assume that Gen Z is merely an extension of the millennials. Early studies show that this is not the case. They have grown up with touch screens, and the Clinton presidency of the 1990’s is now a history lesson.

This post is really a discussion of what is to come with Gen Z so that we might anticipate the differences and figure out how to adapt. For one thing, they will be savers rather than spenders as were the millennials.  As such, millennials tend to be better bargain hunters.  60% of them search for coupons versus only 46% of Gen Z.

It’s my view that the poor economy in the US for the past couple of years may have contributed to this “saving versus spending” attribute of Gen Z.  My own parents were a product of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, and anyone from that era was always more fiscally conservative than later generations (the Boomers, for example).  I think the long recession has had the same impact on Gen Z.

Instead of spending time at the mall, they are more likely to shop online. As a lawyer who made his career in commercial real estate, I can tell you that the brick and mortar shopping malls are under pressure to survive in their present state due to competition from the internet by the likes of Amazon and Ebay.

While most of Generation Y grew up in a stronger economy, Gen Z’s have grown up in a stale recessionary economy. As Tim Elmore notes, they have “grown up in a time of recession, terrorism, violence, volatility, and complexity.” Unlike the millennials before them who had serious preferences to social media, this new generation does not like to be “tracked” and prefers Snapchat, Secret or Whisper to communicate.  This keeps them anonymous.

Their physical life is different, too. Millennials are more active with sports and adventure, but Gen Z sees sports as a health tool and their games are inside.  As a result, obesity has tripled since 1970.  Their attention span is shorter, too.  Only about 9 seconds.  And slightly over 10% of them have ADHD.

Gen Z is more likely to be concerned about the economy and world ecology than being on social media. 60% of them want to change the world, compared to 39% of the millennials. They are also more entrepreneurial than the millennials and some 71% want to start their own businesses.

Getting an advanced college education is not as important – partially due to their observation of previous graduates who are loaded with college debt. Most importantly, they are more independent. Where millennials are apt seek out mentors, Gen Z is more likely to try to figure things out themselves.

Lastly, they are even more digitally connected than the millennials, and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is even higher. Studies show that they will spend 41% of their time outside of school with computers of digital devices compared to 22% just 10 years ago. They are better multitaskers usually combining something digital with another activity.

This is a lot to digest and its implications are enormous.  It paints a complex picture of a generation that is more individualistic, more entrepreneurial and one with higher expectations than their predecessors. Some of those traits can conflict with others.  Individualism may be good, but life is often accomplished better with a team sport mentality.

The challenge is to view these different attibutes as an opportunity to connect with this new generation.  It also provides as a glimpse into what makes them tick and therefore how to interact with them in a way that is of value to them.  I don’t have the answer as to how to appeal to this new generation, but will be constantly on the lookout for what others find works to help guide them to meaningful lives. We’ll be taking this journey together.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The generational differences of Gen Z from the millennials are worthy of note because they are less likely to seek out a mentor than the millennials.

FURTHER STUDY:  8 differences of Gen Z from the Millennials:

Another description of differences of Gen Z by Dr. Tim Elmore:

Attempts by Nascar to attract millennials:

Major League Baseball and the Millennials:

NBA and the Millennials:

WORSHIP:  Listen to “Lord I Need You” by Matt Maher:


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